Moving Forward: A Call to a Smooth Transition in a Changing Ministry Landscape

gene_taborGene Tabor, the founder and patriarch of the REACH discipleship ministry, left a great legacy—the template of a holistic, contextualized, infiltrative and transformational disciple making ministry. We are still doing it. As I champion keeping up with the changing needs and challenges of the time, I am targeting three major thrusts toward organizational sustainability: 1. Next Generation Consciousness (i.e., priming the youth to be at the forefront of the leadership ring), 2. Leadership Transition (i.e., ushering a new cadre of young leaders on the national team), and 3. Advancing Missions in both Indochina and the Muslim South. I believe this will help us reach our goal of reviving our burning passion for disciple making — building inside and slowly expanding outside, with an emphasis on strengthening the nuclear family as the basic social unit of the ministry. This is the REACH agenda today in a nutshell.

Passing On the Legacy to the Next Generation
While many younger organizations have metamorphosed into bigger groups or have become local churches, REACH remains a para-church movement. We specialize in making disciples whose training is to infiltrate and transform social systems as part of a special mission in their work environment. To ensure that this distinctive is not lost over time, our discipleship teaching remains focused on the following core emphases:

1. Strength in the BASICs: Over the years, the BASICs have been the key to discipleship sustainability in the ministry.
Grounding young disciples in personal devotional time with God, Scripture memory, Bible study, prayer, witnessing, and lordship commitment proved to be the secret of survival and growth of our leaders in the movement. Under each activity or item, exists corresponding tools to guide beginners, such as The Bridge, The Wheel, and The Hand illustrations, and SPECT for prayer. The BASICs form an important template that is evident in every REACH constituent, from the early days of the Navigators in the Philippines in the 60s to the present.

2. Timothy Principle: The emergence of many methodologies in church expansion did not change REACH’s strategy. REACH remains faithful in espousing the long-standing principle, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2). The personalized one-on-one follow-up method has been the backbone of ministry expansion over the years. Added on to this is the emphasis on lifetime mentoring with special attention to family members as the first target segment to apply this principle.

3. Philosophy of Contextualized Disciple Making: The REACH vision of transforming every social system through the life-changing influence of the disciple in his work place is best attained through the contextualized approach. This was modeled by Christ who was God but became man to be able to live and teach at the level of His audience. Gene taught us many concepts and philosophies to build our distinctive as a disciple making movement in the Third World Context in the late 1970s. The climate of growth philosophy outlines the disciple’s code of ethics. It aims to effectively permeate the inner values of the targeted contact and the society where he or she lives. It includes creative evangelism, simple sacrifi cial lifestyle, discipleship as a lifestyle, communal identity, Christianity in the marketplace, and social implication of the gospel. On ministry governance, Gene taught us to uphold indigenous leadership patterns, leadership of the Holy Spirit and godly administration. His emphasis on commitment to the poor, cultural sensitivity and holistic development became the hallmark in REACH’s strategy to reach out to the lost and needy.

If there is an important legacy to pass on to the next generation, I believe that the BASICS, the Timothy Principle and Contextualized Disciplemaking are the most essential trademarks that REACH should carry on from generation. But do we still see these emphases being passed on in our teachings in the ministry today?

Transition Measures
As we gear up for a gradual change in the ministry leadership set up, the National Discipleship Team began to work out the following transitory measures for sustainability:

1. Reviving Youth Radicalism. The 70s and 80s marked the height of student activism for Christ on the campuses. I experienced knocking on doors at the men’s dorm, UPLB College of Forestry in 1975-78, to share the Gospel, as a student at the time. Then, the legendary drama, Paltik o Aklat, by the CLSU group in the 80s led to a signifi cant harvest of souls—and was a creative expression of youth radicalism of that time. Can we groom our youth again to this kind of burning passion for Christ?

2. Thrusting Young Men and Women to Step Forward. Holding too long onto leadership in the ministry kills creativity and fresh initiatives. Older ones must gradually give room for new and dynamic blood to come into the leadership ring. But in the process, we should see to it that the next generation of leaders has a clear mission and understand REACH’s vision. But where are the young men and women on the team to take over? We still need to consolidate and prime them for this leadership role. How fast we can do this depends greatly on God’s timing and the heartbeat of those leading this target segment.

3. Challenging the Old to Leave Their Mark. I am keeping my eyes on my two sons because if there are young shoots of leaders whom to pass on my life legacy, they should be the fi rst ones, being part of my bloodline. As we unburden the older leaders from ministry responsibilities, we should see to it that we fi nd their mark in the younger lives. I like that commitment song: Find Us Faithful.

Dangers of Abandoning Our Rich Heritage
We are in a crucial moment in our ministry’s history. Transitioning to the next phase is not easy as there are many possible turns and uncertainties. Can the next generation continue what their fathers and forefathers left behind to them? Will REACH survive in the next 20 years and beyond? How will the ministry look like in terms of composition, structure, substance and depth? These are transition questions that pose challenges for us today.

REACH will surely survive and even take off to greater heights by God’s grace if the older generation diligently passes on its rich spiritual heritage to the next generation. The tragedy that struck the Israelites and caused them to lose the blessings of being used as God’s instrument to bless the world is due to the following:

1. Disconnected from their Rich Past. The parents and older ones failed to tell their stories to their children’s children of how the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob showed His greatness and miraculous deliverance for them (Judges 2:8-11).

2. Fell Into Formal Religiosity. They focused more on structures, traditions and external appearances but lacked the substance of their faith in the true God. That is why Jesus became so indignant with the Pharisees. They appeared to be very holy outside, but rotten inside (Matthew 23:1-39).

3. Forgot their Mission: They did not live up to their calling as God’s chosen to be a blessing to the entire world (Genesis 12:2,3). They forgot their mission to be the source of light to the Gentiles (Romans 11:1-32).

4. Lost their Distinctive as Chosen People. They completely abandoned the God of their ancestors because they coexisted and even absorbed the religious culture of the heathens. For this, God rejected them as His people (Romans 10:19-21). However, He will fulfi ll His promise to the remnants of Israel in the closing times.

Going From Strength to Strength
When Gene went home to the Father in February 2012, some were uncertain of REACH’s sustainability. But since we are a ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:1). We believe and envision a more inspired and radical generation emerging in His time. To ensure that this scenario happens in our time, we need to address the following:

1. Preparing the Next Generation. For outgoing leaders, it is fulfi lling to leave our post when we know someone much better is going to take over. This is a true mark of good and responsible leadership. With this thought, I am duty-bound to prepare the leader who will come after me. Do we all have the same conviction to mentor our Timothy for the next line of leaders in REACH?

2. Strengthening Corporate Commitment. Some are attempting to jump ship and join the cruise vessel of fellowship where they might feel more comfortable. Perhaps we can avoid this if we continue to inculcate to our constituency, REACH’s family core values and corporate commitment. I believe this is a major concern that should be addressed during general conferences and even leadership meetings—that of faithfulness to the organization, next to God and family.

3. Having a Clear Vision and Defi ned Mission. Our vision is permeating and transforming life and society but our mission is to reach out to all walks of life. We were called to a mission in Indochina and we are now looking beyond to the Muslim South. Our dream is to be a mission sending ministry to do holistic, infi ltrative, contextualized and transformational Kingdom building to unreached groups.

4. Create Business Through Inter-Ministry Product Networking. REACH needs a huge budget to propel its growing operation, both locally and overseas. Given the strategic geographical spread of REACH’s ministries throughout the country, product exchange and networking could be a potential avenue for a highly organized corporate business enterprise. How to turn the resources and the logistic arm of the organization into an operational business enterprise for fund raising, on top of members’ regular giving is a great challenge for the REACH BOT and Resources Development Cooperative BOD.

Outlining a road map for REACH’s transition is not a guarantee for a smooth process, apart from God’s blessing and leading. There may be blind alleys, road gaps, detours and even dead ends. But this is an exciting stage to cross as we journey with God together. Psalm 84:1-7 always inspires me about the pilgrims’ journey “as they passed through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.” We have gone through turbulent bumps and shocks as part of the normal trajectory of ministry, but as I look back, those deserted lonely and depressing moments in the past turned into springs of new strength and renewed hope in leadership. This is because God is with us. He assures us that we will go “from strength to strength.” May the Lord bless our transition process towards higher ground. Amen.

Author: Dr. Paul Pasicolan

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